Adobe announces the release of Captivate 8, with new features including the long-awaited Responsive Design. It’s still $19.99/month for an annual contract. If you own Captivate 7, you can also purchase a standalone version of Captivate 8 for $399, but Adobe has made it clear in the past that the ongoing subscription model is the only way to ensure that you receive all updates.
Adobe still doesn’t include Captivate and Presenter, their top two eLearning rapid development tools, in their Creative Cloud (where all the other eLearning enhancement tools you might want, like Edge, Photoshop, and more already live). When I asked them why, I was told not enough people have asked for that. Stay tuned for another post about it; together, maybe we can make them finally change their minds!
My contact at Packt Publishing dropped me a note to announce their latest eBook sale: all eBooks are currently Buy 1 Get 1 Free. If you’re in IT and/or eLearning, you may want to check out their titles. This sale runs only through 3/26. Their eBook library includes titles on Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and Game Development.
If you have a current license for Articulate’s Storyline eLearning development tool, here’s a great bonus: you are now eligible to receive a free, licensed, full version of Articulate’s new presentation tool, Replay!
To claim your copy, have your Storyline license number handy, and click here to complete the request form.
You can create standalone presentations with Replay, or drop them into your Articulate Storyline or Studio projects.
Given the cost of eLearning tools these days, this gesture from Articulate to licensed Storyline users is a delightful surprise. Thanks, Articulate! I hope it’s the start of a trend. And I hope the Adobe Captivate and Presenter teams are watching.
Storyline license holders: download your free copy of Replay today!
eLearning folks: Today through Thursday 10/17 only, Packt Publishing is offering 50% off its entire catalog of eBooks and Videos, including the very good book on Articulate Storyline that I recently reviewed, as well as titles on Adobe Captivate and other products. Use this link: bit.ly/1bqvB29 and enter this code at checkout: COL50 to obtain the sale pricing. The link and special pricing are only good through 10/17.
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Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate 6 have both been on the eLearning rapid development tool market for the better part of a year now. And because both products are so strong, they’re forcing each other to up their game. That’s a win for everyone. Do you need both? Not necessarily. But both have strengths and weaknesses that have come to light since their release. And both are missing things that I think should be a given. So, as impressive as both products truly are, now that they’ve been out for a while, I thought this might be a good time to take another look, and also compile a wish list of some desirable features. Here’s hoping Articulate and Adobe are listening.
The first key area both companies need to address is the utter inequality in they way they treat developers who use Macs instead of Windows-based laptops. After 25 years on Windows, when my frustrating Vista laptop began failing in 2012, I decided to switch to a Mac despite the fact that I would need to spend some extra money and use a virtual environment software (I chose Parallels) to run any Windows-based software. It’s hugely disappointing to me that Articulate doesn’t yet offer a native Mac version of Storyline. I’m equally dismayed that while Adobe does offer a Mac version of its eLearning Suite (which includes Captivate), the Mac version doesn’t include Adobe Presenter! So if you’re a Mac user, Adobe is happy to charge you the same price as a Windows user and give you one program less for your money. I have a real problem with that. In fact, it so annoys me that I haven’t yet upgraded from Adobe’s eLearning Suite 2.5. Like most people, I vote with my wallet.
As to evolving functionality of the two products, here’s some background on my perspective: I participated in the initial Betas of both Storyline and Captivate 6. I did purchase Storyline, despite its steep $1500 price tag compared to Captivate’s list price of $900. I like Storyline that much. I was disappointed with some aspects of Captivate 6 in its Beta, most notably the uneven HTML5 output, and the continued absence of native drag and drop functionality. But I’ve kept tabs on Captivate’s reception and progress since the release of version 6 and will say more on that, shortly. Both companies offer a starting set of interactive templates, but don’t count on them all playing equally well in pure HTML5 output. Both supply a gallery of characters, but both need improvement. Storyline ships with a robust set of illustrated avatar characters in a broad range of poses. But there is only one photo set included; an Asian businesswoman. Speaking as a male voiceover artist, this is awfully limiting. For that hefty $1500 price tag, at the very least, a male character photo set should have been included, as well. And, additional photo sets are pricy. I’m also a professional actor, and I can pretty much guarantee that the actors were paid a modest flat sum to pose for these photo sets; the rest of the cost is mostly vendor markup. Captivate 6 ships with a good selection of photo characters, but in fewer poses, and it offers no illustrated avatar characters at all. And so it goes, back and forth between the two products.
Now, regarding updates since initial release: Storyline has addressed some issues and added some enhancements. Yet something as basic as offering more than one style of bullet point still doesn’t exist. Given the impressive creativity displayed by Articulate’s developers in creating Storyline, this seems very odd. And there are a few other lingering minor bugs, like occasional misbehavior of the “Undo” button. One important update Articulate released adds Tin Can protocol passback capability to their already very nice (and free) Mobile Player app. Adobe recently released an important update to Captivate, as well. It purports to enhance Captivate 6’s lackluster HTML5 performance and finally, finally adds native drag and drop functionality after years of leaving users to buy widgets from other vendors to fill that glaring gap. Excellent, flexible drag and drop functionality was present in Storyline when it launched. Adobe also just released an update for (ahem) Presenter. Cause for rejoicing, right? Not exactly. Adobe is making these updates available right now only to those who bought into their annual support plan (which an Adobe sales rep just told me is being phased out), or who pay for a monthly subscription to use the software. So if you paid full price but didn’t buy into the support plan, you’re out of luck until you upgrade to the next version of Captivate, whenever that comes out. Granted, Articulate has a similar approach, and they don’t offer a monthly pricing model yet. But in my opinion these particular Adobe updates are really just plugging existing, painful holes in their product. In my opinion, these features should have been in Captivate before version 6 was released, and all current license holders of the latest Captivate and eLearning Suite should receive these particular enhancements gratis.
In addition, when Adobe released the new version of the eLearning Suite, they didn’t make it available as part of their new, much-hyped Creative Cloud, even though there are clearly some Adobe Cloud applications that eLearning (and especially mobile learning) developers would want to leverage. When Adobe launched their Cloud, they offered existing Creative Suite 5 license holders a significantly discounted monthly rate to access the Cloud for the first 12 months. The eLearning Suite should be part of the Creative Cloud, and existing suite license holders should receive a similar pricing deal. If you agree with me, let your Adobe rep know! If social media has taught us anything, it has reminded us of the power of voices speaking up in unison to obtain fair treatment.
As to the future: So far, neither product has accomplished the holy grail of “responsive design,” i.e., automating the process of repurposing content for your choice of pc, tablet, or smartphone. That’s where we all need to be heading in the eLearning rapid development market. Adobe recently created Edge, a nifty tool for generating HTML5 animations, and now they have a set of related tools–including the in-development Edge Reflow, which offers responsive design. But currently the Edge toolset is on the Creative Cloud, so it’s anyone’s guess how long it will take before responsive design trickles down to the apparently earthbound eLearning Suite, and to Captivate in particular. That challenging but essential feature remains on my wish list from both companies, along with a standing request for more templates. And of course, I’m still waiting for some seriously overdue respect for us Mac users.
Impressive as both products are, here are my wish lists for enhancements:
Captivate (and Adobe in general)
APPLE. IN THE LIBRARY. WITH A LEAD PIPE. If life was like the classic board game “Clue,” that might well have been the headline in all our eLearning journals at the end of 2011. In place of the unfortunate Mr. Boddy, the crime scene photograph would have shown a white chalk outline in the shape of Adobe Flash. There’s a semi-happy ending to this news report, though: to paraphrase a certain Monty Python plague victim, Flash isn’t dead yet.
But by the same token, the late Steve Jobs and his Apple team dealt Adobe a crippling blow when it refused to support Flash Player on their iPhone and iPad devices, citing heavy resource requirements and potential security vulnerabilities. (And for a moment, let’s ignore the fact that even without playing Flash on it, I need to recharge my iPhone 4 once or twice a day!) So, is Flash dead, or dying? Not in the immediate future. Think of all the legacy content out there. But last November, when Adobe finally raised the white flag and announced that it was abandoning its development of the Flash Mobile platform, it became clear to everyone in eLearning that the development tool landscape is beginning a tectonic shift due to the growing importance of mobile learning, or mLearning.
If Flash is the Giant, then the young Giantkiller with the slingshot and the great aim is HTML5. And there’s a certain irony here: it’s not even a clearly codified, formalized markup language yet. In fact, bearing in mind the reality that “change is the only constant,” HTML5 may well end up being a freeform, organically expanding entity for a number of years to come, as new codes and capabilities are added. We may need to start calling it something catchy like “HTML Universe” (in a techie nod to the Stargate franchise) or “HTML Utopia,” or some other name that will represent an ever-evolving entity. Because let’s face it: do we really want to find ourselves talking about HTML16 or 156 anytime soon? I know I don’t. It’s true that right now, HTML5 still can’t do all the things that Flash can. But it can do a lot of them. Flash’s sun is setting, and HTML5 is the new sun rising on our eLearning horizon. At least for this rotation.
So how are the eLearning development tools we use today evolving to meet our need for engaging, interactive eLearning content that can play on any website or any mobile device? If you’re an eLearning Guild member you should download and read Nick Floro’s new tools report for 2012. It’s an excellent snapshot of where we all were at the end of 2011. (And if you’re not a member of the eLearning Guild by now, you really should be!) I’m going to take a closer look at the HTML5-readiness question for 2012, based on some hands-on Beta testing that I’ve been doing with both Adobe and Articulate.
For some year now, many of us have been using Adobe Captivate for our eLearning projects. The current build, Captivate 5.5, incorporates widgets and other programmer-friendly tools to expand the interactive capabilities of your eLearning course. But Captivate now also sports a spartan new gray Photoshop-style interface that I find is challenging to many corporate Subject Matter Experts (or SMEs). And it doesn’t publish to HTML5. I’ve been participating in testing of Adobe’s standalone HTML5 Converter tool, which is extremely simple to operate. With each new test version, more interactive features are being included. But as of this writing, there are still many Captivate features that cannot be converted. Adobe has also just started Alpha testing for Captivate 6. What’s the bottom line? By the time it hits the shelves, Captivate 6 will need to include seamless and comprehensive HTML5 publishing as one of its standard options. Anything less at this point would would give the competition too much of an advantage.
I’ve also been taking a look at Adobe’s new animation tool, Edge, which is in a pre-Beta Preview. Edge offers a clean (but again somewhat cryptic and SME-unfriendly) interface for creating animations using a combination of HTML, scripting, and cascading style sheets (CSS) instead of Flash. I went to Adobe’s Edge Preview launch here in NY in the summer of 2011 and worked with version 1 briefly at that time, but it did not yet offer interactivity or the ability to include audio and video. Preview version 4 was released on January 19th, and includes the first interactive features, so I look forward to checking that out. But audio/video is still not part of the package, and Adobe is well aware that the tool will not be ready for the public until those features are included. While Adobe seems to be positioning Edge as a standalone tool, for my money, it should also be included in the next releases of both their Creative Suite and the eLearning Suite. To not do that when so many customers have partnered with Adobe to help make it happen would seem both ungrateful and unwise. How Edge fares in the market will depend on the final list of features, its ease of use, how it’s packaged, and what tools the competition puts out in the meantime.
Adobe has undoubtedly felt heavy breathing on its neck over the past year from Articulate’s upcoming tool, Storyline. I’m participating in the Beta of this tool as well, so I am not allowed to say much at this time. It’s not divulging any secret, however, to say that per its name, Storyline includes a library of poseable characters, and is designed for the creation of story or scenario-based learning. That’s a long-awaited feature right there. I can also say that the tool is designed with the SME in mind, with an extremely user-friendly interface. Articulate intends to make Storyline content publishable to your choice of Flash or HTML5 by the time it launches later this year. Its screen capture feature can’t do everything that Captivate does at this point. But Adobe should be extremely concerned about the competition shaping up here, both in terms of product vision and functional design. Again, all will depend on the final list of features, and the price point. Articulate is saying that Storyline will be priced comparably to their other suite components, so we’ll see. If they keep the price low enough, I foresee this tool being a genuine game-changer for the eLearning marketplace.
Of course, competition is great for everyone because it brings out the best and brightest from each company, and makes each tool better. That’s good news for those of us who can’t afford to buy them all. And I’m discussing only a handful of tools! There are of course a lot more out there, including tools at higher and lower price points, and also cloud-based development suites offering HTML5 publishing. So let’s have a vision moment: what should be happening as we move forward? Ultimately, the applications that come out on top will need to be affordable and offer the ability to enter your content once, then simply apply a desktop or mobile template with the click of a button. Whoever can design applications that publish to your choice of Flash or HTML5 and minimize the need for rework when publishing to different devices will carry the day. At this point, products that publish only to Flash are basically writing their own obituaries, and will rapidly fade from the market as mobile learning becomes a more popular delivery method.
What will we be saying about 2012 a year from now? Perhaps not even Professor Plum or Miss Scarlet can figure that out. By then, HTML5 may have met its match. But when we eLearning professionals look back on this year, chances are we’re going to remember it as the year we discovered a body in the library. And the game changed again.
Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment!
I’ve just returned from attending the Adobe Learning Summit 2011, and from being both presenter and attendee at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference. I had a fantastic time. Both conferences had excellent keynote speakers: Steven Berlin Johnson on the collaborative nature of innovation, John Medina on applying “brain rules” to learning, Nancy Duarte on visual impact, and Michael Wesch with a moving final talk on the implicit social responsibility behind social media. There were also some very good peer-led sessions as well at both conferences. Plus, it’s always exciting to see the new eLearning products from the vendors at the Expo. Articulate’s upcoming “Storylines” and Michael Allen’s long-awaited “Zebra” are both coming to market this year, and you should keep an eye on both of those software applications; they have enormous potential.
At the Adobe Summitt, I was delighted to meet Shameer, Akshay, RJ, Allen, and a lot more of the brilliant folks behind Adobe’s wonderful Captivate software. They were great to talk to, and extremely responsive to everyone’s suggestions for future enhancements. I’m sending them a list!
It was fantastic to have the two conferences co-located in the same week; I hope that becomes an annual plan. The perfect Orlando weather didn’t hurt, either.
In addition to my full-day pre-conference certificate program on voiceovers (see my next post for a write-up!) as part of the Learning Solutions conference, I also led a one-hour Presentation Skills 101 class each of the three days of that conference, helping e-Learning professionals overcome the classic roadblocks to delivering an engaging and inspiring presentation, regardless of the topic or medium. The attendees participated actively, contributing great examples from their own experiences, and gave me great reviews afterward. I like to think that there are a lot more e-Learning professionals out there now who can get up in front of any audience with confidence and really make a difference. I was very pleased that Nancy Duarte’s conceptual talk about the importance of “resonating” with an audience was a perfect companion talk to my own sessions, which provided hands-on ways to do it!
I also met a lot of great people from all over the place, and hope a lot of us can stay in touch here, on LinkedIn, and on Facebook, now that the conferences are over. My only regret: I couldn’t fit the gorgeous Orlando weather into my suitcase to bring home with me! 😀
NOTE: If you attended one of my Presentation Skills 101 sessions, I’d love to hear from you about how you’re implementing the tips & tricks I shared. I’m always happy to bounce around new ideas, or offer suggestions, if I can be of further help. If you didn’t attend, but this sounds like coaching you need, please see my Coaching tab.
My thanks again to Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild for inviting me to present these sessions, and to Juli Balding, Ina Brasher, and the rest of the gang at the eLearning Guild for the fantastic support throughout. Well done, all!
One of my projects this fall was partnering with the folks at MetLife on preparing communications pieces, job aids, and how-to guided tour simulations for the launch of their new internal MyLearning site interface. I created a series of communications pieces, from the executive e-mail announcement down to a series of monthly “did you know?” follow-up spots for the site itself to be used in the first quarter of 2011. I also consulted on and revised the proposed storyboards for the guided tours of the site’s new “look and feel,” and provided the voiceovers for both tours. In addition, I created a series of step-by-step job aids for the most common tasks for each job role. We delivered everything on schedule, and the new site launched successfully with all support tools in place on Monday, December 20th. Next up in January 2011: more simulations introducing key new features of the site!
I’ve just finished creating another two simulations for MetLife’s internal training organization. I did the instructional design, wrote the scripts/storyboards, created the simulations using Captivate, and created the voiceovers as well. I created a number of them earlier in the year for MetLife, and am looking forward to creating more later this year. Brief, just-in-time simulations like these are great for getting the point across to the learners quickly and easily right when they need the information. And I always love being “the voice” that shows the way!